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Meet farmers of tomorrow learning on the job today

Friday October 27 2017

Some of the 4K Club pupils at Sidindi Primary School in Siaya County.

Some of the 4K Club pupils at Sidindi Primary School in Siaya County attend to their cattle in the school. The club has half-acre of vegetables, mainly collard greens (sukuma wiki) which they sell to teachers and the school’s neighbours. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

RACHEL KIBUI
By RACHEL KIBUI
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As most children played in the field at Sidindi Primary School in Siaya County during the 4pm games time break, members of the Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia Kenya (4K) Club were on the farm.

Some were watering vegetables, others checking on a tree nursery, while the rest were on fodder farm or attending to their dairy animals.

This is the routine for the 100 members of the club, who have embraced farming not only as a way of earning income, but also nurturing their dream careers in agribusiness.

The club has half-acre of vegetables, mainly collard greens (sukuma wiki) which they sell to teachers and the school’s neighbours.

They also have about 500 eucalyptus seedlings which they sell at Sh10 each. Last year, they had the same number of seedlings, some of which were planted within the school’s compound, others distributed for members to plant at their homes while they sold some to neighbours around the school.

Part of the income from the agribusiness is spent on buying school uniform for needy members while the rest is saved for re-investment in the next season.

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“Last year we earned Sh5,000 from both vegetables and seedlings, but this year we expect the income to double,” said Julian Onyango, a teacher, who doubles as the 4K Club’s patron.

While the income might appear low, the impact of the project on the children’s future cannot be underrated.

Besides inspiration from the hands-on experience, some 4K Club members have developed interest along the agricultural career lines.

“I would like to be a commercial farmer when I grow up,” said 12-year-old Faith Beatrice, adding that she specifically would like to concentrate on horticulture and dairy farming.

DIVERSE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Shadrack Ignatius, 14, aspires to be a veterinary officer. He said he would use his professional skills to inspire the community to embrace modern dairy keeping methods, including use of artificial insemination to improve breeds.

A 4K Club member in the school waters vegetables in the farm.

A 4K Club member in the school waters vegetables in the farm. The school is emerging as a ‘centre of excellence’ where locals often converge to learn on various farming aspects. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The club has benefited from a zero-grazing unit from the Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises (KAVES) funded by the USAID.

The school has one-acre fodder, which has five grass varieties including Boma Rhodes, lucern, napier, desmodium and Sudan.

“We decided to test various varieties so that we later choose one that performs the best,” said Onyango. While some of the fodder is fed to the school’s four dairy cows and a bull, the surplus is sold to local livestock keepers, according to Onyango.

The school has since become a ‘centre of excellence’ where locals often converge to learn on various farming aspects. “Even when we have a parents’ meeting, many players in the agribusiness sector come and give a talk on Good Agricultural Practices among other issues,” said Pius Otieno, the head teacher.

He expressed optimism that the school will influence the community to shift from keeping the traditional cows to hybrid ones, which produce more milk.

With schools closed, the students have made arrangement to work on the farm in turns. Besides, there is a worker who takes care of the cow.

Jacob Odhiambo Odiek, a retired agricultural officer based in Siaya, said it is necessary to train children farming to prepare them for future careers.

“Agriculture has diverse employment opportunities including agribusiness, agronomy and veterinary. Children taught early grow up with a positive attitude towards farming, and find it easier to earn daily bread in future from the soil.”